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my thoughts on the nokia e71

posted to writings on nov 25th, 2008 with tags e71, iphone, and phone

i've been using my nokia e71 for a week and a half now and there are quite a few things that i like, and quite a few that i don't.

one of the first things i did when i got it (after buying an 8gb micro-sd card for it) was pair it with my imac over bluetooth, then run isync and push my calendars and contacts to it wirelessly. the ironic part, of course, is that isync is made by apple and comes with mac os x, but it doesn't work with apple's own iphone. it does, however, work with pretty much every other non-apple phone i've ever had.

properly functioning bluetooth on the phone also makes things like pushing apps and other random files to it much easier than having to plug it into a usb cable. running 3rd party apps which can be downloaded from an author's site is well supported and doesn't require any hacks or "jailbreaks". disabling a simple toggle in the phone's settings disables the requirement that apps be signed, allowing the use of many free applications that haven't paid the \$200/year to have a symbian certificate. of course, that's not to say that a central "app store" would not be useful, though.

the phone's web browser is not as bad as i was expecting. it has been able to render pretty much every site i've had to use on it, and the scrolling/zooming without a touchscreen isn't that bad. there is even a web browser that supports flash video, natively, unlike the iphone's separate youtube application.

google maps works with the internal gps very nicely. i don't know why anyone would pay for a commercial gps app or service with these phones.

the e-mail client is pretty crappy, but it works and fetches from my imap server (for two accounts) very quickly. it usually makes its little chime on new e-mail before imapbiff on my laptop notices it.

since the physical footprint of the phone is nearly identical to the apple iphone, i don't have much to say about it. the keyboard keys are big enough to type on and the screen is big enough to read, but it's still small and light enough that it doesn't bother me to have it in my pocket all day.

with all that said, there are a few annoyances with this particular phone and with the symbian s60 operating system that have really bothered me, especially after using an iphone for a long time.

my problems with the phone itself:

  • it doesn't charge over usb, and the usb cable it uses for synching is micro-usb instead of mini-usb. just one more cable i have to keep on my desk now.
  • no one-touch hardware lock button. with the iphone, i could just push the top button and hear it click while i was putting it into my pocket. it locked instantly and could be done from any screen. with the e71 i have to go back to the home screen, then hit the blue button and then the bottom-left button (whatever that is). it's annoying and i frequently hit the wrong keys. since the blue button is also tied to an application from the home screen, if i push that and then don't hit the other button in time, it launches that application, then i have to close it, then try again. there is a hardware button on the top of the phone that would be perfect for this but it's tied to changing phone profiles. how stupid is that? how often does one really change profiles? if there was just a hardware mute switch like on the iphone and my old treo, most people wouldn't even need to bother with profiles at all.
  • as well, the hardware volume buttons don't adjust the ringer volume. if you use them from any screen they do nothing, and only adjust the volume of calls in progress or while playing music. if i'm going somewhere loud or leaving the phone away from me, i want to quickly and temporarily crank the ringer volume up. instead i have to go to the settings and adjust it or switch to a different profile with a loud ringer volume set. lame.
  • the 2.5mm headphone jack is annoying. i realize everything getting smaller (micro-usb, micro-sd, etc.) but there are practically no 2.5mm headphones being made. does the audio quality get worse with a smaller jack? i guess i can't really fault nokia for this because the phone does come with some crappy 2.5mm headphones to use, but i wish sennheiser or someone would make some 2.5mm headphones. an adapter to 3.5mm would be very small and take up no room, whereas going the opposite way means a big goofy dongle sticking out of the phone.

as for my problems with the symbian s60 operating system:

  • WHY DOES EVERYTHING REQUIRE CONFIRMATION EVERY SINGLE TIME?! this is so frustrating! want to allow your computer to sync over bluetooth even though it's paired with a key? you have to confirm it every time. want to allow any java program to access the network? you have to confirm it every time. it's like running windows vista or something.
  • some applications also require you to confirm which network connection you want to use every time you launch them. i realize it's useful to have certain applications always go through specific connections (such as my jabber client always going through at&t so it doesn't disconnect when i leave my wireless) but it shouldn't be fixed to one connection or require confirmation every time. there should be a way to let an application pick which ever connection is available, in some sort of priority, and not have to ask me every time. when i'm at home i want the web browser to use my wireless until i leave and then it should fail back to the cellular network.
  • the blinking light that flashes faster when i have a new e-mail doesn't stop flashing once the e-mail has been marked read on the server. the e-mail client already picks up on this, but for some reason it forgets to tell the phone to stop blinking.
  • s60 has a really ugly font that makes it look dated. it's way too big for most applications, too. i want a font like a blackberry where you can read an entire e-mail on one screen. i tried the hack to get a different font by putting it on my sd card, and the 3rd party app to downsize fonts, but this is all pretty hokey.
  • managing the settings is a nightmare. there are way too many knobs to turn and they are all over the place. while the blackberry has an equally high number of knobs, they seem to be more efficiently organized in the settings app.

overall i'm pretty happy with the e71. if a better imap-only e-mail solution comes out for the blackberry, and i suspect it will when the new blackberry storm saturates a more non-business audience, then i may switch to the new curve (javelin).

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